Halloween TV Party: 3 episodes of The Amazing World of Gumball

Since I covered the Halloween episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy in the previous post on this Halloween specials project, I’ve decided to take a look now at what is, to date, the longest running show on the channel (especially now that Adventure Time is no more). The Amazing World of Gumball is one of the most cool-looking animated shows I’ve seen in recent years. With the few episodes I’ve seen here and there, I am constantly awed by its seamless blending of multiple styles of animation, all of which contribute to the show’s overall style and mood without being too distracting or messy. Besides this, though, it’s just funny, sweet, and brimming with unique personality – certainly one of the staples of the network as a whole.

Somehow I never actually got around to watching the Halloween episodes of this show… so, I’m fixing that right now!

The first of these episodes is the aptly titled “Halloween” (02×09) and involves lead siblings Gumball, Darwin, and Anais getting into some trouble on Halloween night, with the former two eventually finding themselves in the midst of a ghost party. The comedic buildup of this episode is great, with chemistry between all three characters and additional player Carrie the ghost (who is a mainstay in these Halloween episodes) being being really tight and natural. And moving on, the ghost party is one of my favorite bits of this episode. The florescent effect given to the numerous ghosts here are pretty damn cool, and their unique designs owe much to the waiting room scene in Beetlejuice. And as these things play out, Gumball and Darwin wish to become ghosts too – and once they do, they use their new invisibility privilege to play pranks on other kids around the neighborhood, as kids do. This leads to one of my favorite lines of the episode – “Should we call a doctor, a vet, or a paleontologist?”.

But then it gets real. As midnight swiftly approaches, the boys are in danger of remaining ghosts for eternity until they return to their bodies! In the climax, there’s a really neat scene involving a vortex to the underworld, and it is legitimately tension-filled and even a bit terrifying. Of course, as these things go, everything turns out okay… well, not everything, as the very end reveals. As a Halloween-themed episode, this one is pretty solid while also staying true to the show’s dynamic as a whole. On a side note, though, I don’t think the part where Darwin kisses Carrie without asking is at all suitable for very young children without a lesson in boundaries. Honestly, it might be better off not being in here at all – although it’s not quite the level of horrifying for which I would pull out the pitchforks.

The second episode is “The Mirror” (03×23), which is the only one of the three to not have anything to do with Halloween at all, other than the fact it first aired on Cartoon Network on October 30th. It begins innocuously enough – Gumball receives one of those chain emails that promises pain and gloom if he doesn’t forward to ten people. Despite Darwin’s urging, he laughs it off and deletes it – and the next day, everything goes as wrong as the message warned! In desperation, the boys turn to some “magical help” by way of an all-knowing witch.

It is from this point on that the story really starts to get interesting. The narrative here is even more packed than that in “Halloween” – even though, yes, none of it really has anything to do with Halloween itself. Still, it’s a pretty solid Gumball episode at the end of the day, with ghosts and spells getting involved, as well as time travel for a bit! It also has an unexpected kind of a third act twist and an ending that is even pretty heartfelt for a change. Still, despite the spooky and even grotesque imagery here and there, this doesn’t really come across to me as an episode I would willingly watch every Halloween season.

Luckily, though, “The Scam” (04×39) brings us back to the Halloween-themed funtimes. At the start, we are brought into a Halloween show and tell – wherein Gumball arrives dressed as Beetlejuice! If this wasn’t awesome enough, a meta-joke is made wherein he tells the story of a hideous creature whose name is forbidden to be spoken lest terrible things should occur. This is soon revealed to all be part of a major scheme by Gumball, Darwin, and Carrie to exterminate this imaginary creature (named Gargaroth) in exchange for oodles of candy. The episode then shifts over to a Ghostbusters-like montage of their activities, complete with a parody of the movie’s theme – although this version sounds more like “I Want a New Drug”, which is a clever joke all its own.

Anyway, soon the kids’ plan is thwarted once they realize what they thought was made-up is actually true – Gargaroth actually is terrorizing their school! The rest of the episode deals with the trio attempting to fight him off by satisfying his hunger with Halloween candy, though Gumball is especially reluctant in this regard. Although the design of Gargaroth is a pretty standard Cronenburg-esque blob of monstrous horror, it’s pretty damn terrifying for a children’s show especially. It’s gotta be up there with the Trickster in “Summerween” in terms of modern-day nightmare fuel. While the climax of this episode doesn’t feel quite so tension-driven as the other two episodes here, the pacing is still overall pretty great and this makes for a satisfyingly creepy Halloween episode as a whole.

Nonetheless, I can’t say that neither of these last two episodes really grab me as much as “Halloween”. It is arguably just as well-written, well-animated, and well-structured as the other two, but I think it just succeeds with doing more with less. The story is relatively simpler, which is always a plus with these specials in terms of rewatchability. Also, this one’s got more freakin’ ghosts! Of course I’d love it the most.

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